The Night Comes for Us is director Timo Tjahjanto’s follow up to his 2016 action movie Headshot and is premiering on Netflix. It’s a kinetic, bloody action movie utilising Indonesian Pencak Silat martial arts, cinematically popularised in The Raid movies.
Ito (Joe Taslim) is an enforcer for a Triad operating out of the infamous Golden Triangle. He is a member of a group of high level operatives who go to extreme measures in service of the Triad. These merciless enforcers are known as The Six Seas.
Under orders to exterminate a fishing village for skimming profits, Ito refuses to kill a young girl, Reina (Asha Kenyeri Bermudez), and turns instead on his own men. He heads home to the Jakarta underground hoping to get himself and Reina fake identities and passage out of the country. However, the Triad has recruited Ito’s old friend, Arian (Iko Uwais), to pursue him, promising Arian a lucrative territory in return. In addition, the Triad sends its local thugs in pursuit of Ito, and a mysterious, deadly assassin known as The Operative (Julie Estelle) is circling the whole affair with an unknown motive.
Sporting the kind of body count that might make John Wick think “isn’t that a bit much?” The Night Comes For Us is 120 minutes of full-throttle action insanity that, alongside The Raid movies and Tjahjanto’s Headshot, stakes a solid claim for Indonesia to pry the action cinema crown away from Hong Kong. Although distinctly stylish in its own right, The Night Comes for Us conjures up the sort of excitement previously reserved for the heyday of John Woo or Ringo Lam, with equatable amounts of bullets flying, but added menace in the form of balletically choreographed, machete-heavy martial arts and the Bruce Lee/Jackie Chan tradition of one-guy-versus-lots-of-guys fisticuffs.
Plot-wise, we get a nice switcheroo on the classic cop-gone-bad story, because in The Night Comes for Us Ito is a thug-gone-good, and the ‘good’ characters are all textbook anti-heroes. In fact, the only person in the whole movie who could be considered a ‘goodie’ is Reina, the child. The keep-the-kid-safe plot device is a classic action-thriller favourite, popular with everything from Commando to Witness to Safe. It works really well, providing these questionable characters with a moral anchor. Although when we talk about morality, all we mean is the willingness of some, versus the refusal of others, to murder a child, so we’re not exactly in Mother Theresa territory here.
Unlike the action movies of the 80s where Schwarzenegger, Willis et al took on armies of villains with an almost cartoonish unreality, The Night Comes for Us is firmly rooted in the real world. There is a certain morbid humour to some of the kill sequences, but it’s largely pulled off without any sense of the light hearted. So while there is a lot of great, crunchy fighting, with severed arteries and pulverized spines galore, there are no terrible puns or poor-taste one-liners to lighten the mood. Instead, The Night Comes for Us concentrates on spilling blood by the bucket load and cramming as much wince-inducing pain into every shot as possible.
So be fairly warned: The Night Comes for Us is very violent. Very. It’s not for the squeamish or those of a sensitive disposition, but it’s nothing if not inventive. Tjahjanto and Uwais (in his capacity as action coordinator) take grisly delight in devising new and visceral ways of dispatching Triad thugs. Whether its stabbing a bloke with the stub of a broken bone, raking a chap’s jugular across the broken shards of a windowpane, or a grim alternative use for a pocket full of snooker balls, they don’t ever hold back.
The Night Comes for Us reunites The Raid alumni Taslim and Uwais, and with a slightly different dynamic with them on the opposite side of the law. Playing friends once again, but pitted against each other on the whim of the Triad bosses, Uwais and Taslim bring far more to the film than just their exceptional martial arts prowess. In a counterpoint to the hard brutality on display, they bring a likeability to their roles that helps ensure the heart of the picture rests on much more than a couple of one dimensional thugs.
It’s not your normal action movie boys club either, with Julie Estelle (best known to most as Hammer Girl from The Raid 2) in devastating form as the mysterious Operative. Added to the mix are two deadly Triad enforcers, Alma (Dian Sastrowardoyo) and Elena (Hannah Al Rashid). Alma wields a fearsome high-tensile wire, lopping off heads and limbs with a surgical precision, while Elena’s mastery of a curved blade leads a grisly trail of sliced up henchmen in her wake. When all three finally get to face off, it is arguably the best sequence of the movie.
As good as the film is, it’s not completely flawless. There does come a point at which you have to wonder whether the Triad wanting to kill a small child is too loose of a justification for the carnage that follows. Although you might argue it is a situation escalating out of control, might not a sensible person draw a line under it, once several hundred people have been killed? And with a couple of different Triad factions getting involved as the story progresses, it does muddy the waters a little. The Night Comes for Us is also too long. We suffer a bit of fight fatigue by the end, but only in the sense of having too much of a good thing. It’s the action equivalent of eating the whole block of chocolate and feeling sick, instead of just a few squares. So while these imperfections might stop it from scoring full marks, if you’re completely on board with The Night Comes for Us, it’s unlikely to be of much concern.
When the dust settles, Timo Tjahjanto has delivered a blistering lightning bolt of Silat action and bloody melees, and although the clear stars are the crunching set pieces and remarkable physicality of the actors, the expert direction and quality performances elevate it to a classic-in-waiting. Fans of The Raid, fans of Hong Kong action cinema and fans of action movies in general are going to want to get all over this, because it’s really violent, really bloody and really good.
SCREEN REALM SCORE: ★★★★☆
‘The Night Comes for Us’ is available for Netflix streaming right HERE.